In a new study, researchers from the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in the US have confirmed that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats may help you live longer. The findings were published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine .
Saturated fats such as butter, lard and fat from red meat when replaced with unsaturated fats from plant-based foods such as olive oil, canola oil or soybean oil, conferred substantial health benefits.
‘Unsaturated fats from plant-based food like olive oil, canola oil and soybean oil may protect you from the risk of premature death.’
The study included a total of 126,233 participants who were followed for a period of thirty years. They had answered to survey questions on diet, lifestyle and health every 2- 4 years. During the follow up 33,304 deaths were documented. The researchers examined the relationship between the types of fats in the diet of the participants as well as the overall deaths in the group during the study period.
Researchers concluded that different types of fats had different associations with mortality rate. The consumption of unsaturated fats, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, were found to lower the overall mortality rate between 11 per cent and 19 per cent, compared to the same number of calories from carbohydrates.
On the other hand every 2 per cent higher intake of trans-fat was associated with 16 per cent higher risk of premature death and for every 5 per cent increase in the intake of saturated fat was associated with 8 per cent higher risk of mortality.
Lead author of the study and doctoral candidate at Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health Dong Wang has said, "There has been widespread confusion in the biomedical community and the general public in the last couple of years about the health effects of specific types of fat in the diet." He said that the study documents the benefits of replacing saturated fats and trans-fats with unsaturated fats.
"Our study shows the importance of eliminating trans-fat and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fats, including both omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids," says Frank Hu from Harvard Chan School.
By replacing just 5 per cent of calories from saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats like olive oil was associated with 27 per cent lower risk of early death in participants. They had lower risk of death not only from cardiovascular diseases but also from other neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, respiratory diseases and cancer.
Dr. Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at Britain's Institute of Food Research has said " the findings are consistent with current public health recommendations in the UK and elsewhere, and particularly with the concept of a beneficial Mediterranean-style diet, rich in unsaturated fats from plants, fish and olive oil." He added that this study contradicts the recent claim 'butter is back'